Ann Travers to meet SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell over SPAD Bill

Ann Travers to meet SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell over SPAD Bill

A cancer-struck woman whose sister was killed by the IRA is set to have clear-the-air talks with SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell.

It follows a decision by his party to block a bill banning those with serious convictions from becoming Stormont advisers.

Ann Travers said she was “very disturbed” to learn the SDLP’s position and is hoping they will change their mind.

On Tuesday she said Ms Travers said she was “gutted” that the SDLP is trying to block a bill that would prevent former prisoners guilty of serious offences holding posts as Stormont special advisers (SPADs).

The SDLP could now use a ‘Petition of Concern’ to stop the bill from becoming law.

Ms Travers, who has been undergoing treatment for cancer, said she did not know if the SDLP was representing victims or victim-makers.

The Special Advisers Bill has been drafted by the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV).

Led by former barrister Jim Allister, the TUV brought the bill after ex-IRA prisoner Mary McArdle was appointed as an adviser to Sinn Fein Culture, Arts and Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin.

The bill seeks to ban anyone who has been sentenced to more than five years in prison from taking up a post in the future.

McArdle was convicted of the 1984 murder of Ms Travers’ sister Mary as she left Mass in south Belfast with her mum and dad.

Her magistrate dad Tom Travers was injured in the shooting and survived.

Speaking on Tuesday, Ann Travers said: “I feel so disappointed, gutted – I have been punched in the stomach.

“And I feel they (SDLP) don’t understand how hugely symbolic this bill is for victims of violence in Northern Ireland.

“The whole point of this bill is that what happened to my family would never happen again.

“I never expected that, just because they didn’t get their own way, they’d try to block it.

“I expected to bang my head off a brick wall with Sinn Fein, but I never expected it from the SDLP. Never in a million years.”

Tom Travers and murdered daughter Mary

Tom Travers and murdered daughter Mary

Her sister Mary was shot dead as she left a church in south Belfast with her family in 1984.

The bill, which passed its further consideration stage on Monday, was proposed after Mary McArdle – who was convicted of involvement in the murder – was appointed as a Sinn Féin advisor to Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín.

Ms McArdle left the role last March following a campaign by Ann Travers.

If the Special Advisers Bill becomes law no one with a conviction leading to a five-year jail term will be able to hold such a position.

It has been opposed by Sinn Féin and the SDLP.

The SDLP put forward amendments which were rejected during Monday’s debate but they could use a petition of concern to stop the legislation going forward.

Newry and Armagh MLA Dominic Bradley said: “This bill and the debate reiterates the need for a more far-reaching mechanism for dealing with truth and the past to be developed and enacted without further delay. We cannot support this bill as it stands unamended.”

TUV leader Jim Allister, who brought the bill to the Assembly, said: “A petition of concern would be a total travesty. The Assembly is quite clear that it is supportive of this bill. This bill is about righting a wrong.”




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